Landing Page Optimization
A landing page is a single page, distinct from the main website, that has as its goal a conversion. Landing pages, according to the purists’ definition, has no navigation to the main website, and has nothing to get in the way of a conversion.
There is a sea of information about all the techniques and tricks used to drive people to conversions, including all the detailed advice on how big CTAs should be, and on and on. Those are all important issues.
But sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees. A landing page has a big purpose — conversions. In order to convert, the user has several huge meta-questions that he or she needs to answer.
This article explains each of those four questions, and tells you how to answer them. If your landing page fails to answer these questions, then your landing page will not be as effective as it could be.
QUESTION 1: What is this?
What’s the landing page about? What is the deal with this? What’s for sale?
[A landing page must instantly inform the user what it is all about.]
The answer to this question should begin even before the user lands on your page. Your PPC headline should indicate in some way the theme or content of the website.
When a user finds your landing page, their mind is demanding a reason for the click — the whole purpose they have arrived on your page.
Researchers say that it takes less than 10 seconds to compel a user to stay on the page.
It seems pretty harsh that you have only a few seconds to grab their attention before they leave your page. But this is the brutal reality in an age of landing pages, divided attention, crowded minds, and competition for attention.
How to Answer the Question
1. First, YOU answer the question with your headline.
There are a few qualities of your headline that will help you answer the question, “what is this?”
- It must be clear. Leave no questions in the user’s mind as to what the headline is about.
- It must be direct. Use plain language. The landing page headline is not the place to be cute or get all artsy with your words. The good ol’ subject, verb, and direct object should do the trick.
- It must be short. Shave off any extraneous words and drive straight to the point. Remember, you only have 10 seconds.
2. Second, YOU answer the question with your images.
The brain processes images faster than text. For that reason, the images you select are very important in helping to prepare the user’s mind for the answer to the question “What is this?”
If you can make your image large, prominent and obvious, you’ve come a long way in answering the question. The image must be relevant to the content, even if it does not directly answer the question in and of itself.
Example No. 1:
It’s clear, direct, and short. The headline answers the question, “What is this?” with expert brevity and clarity.
Two landing page analysts, Rand Fishkin and Oli Gardner, examined this headline, and made this judgment: “Clearest headline we’ve seen thus far.” It’s a good example of the kind of clarity that works.
Example No. 2:
This landing page from Impact also answers, “What is this?” in a powerful way.
Example No. 3:
The website Manpacks uses six words to craft a headline that is unequivocally direct.
Example No. 4:
Goldline offers a clear answer with this headline: “Get Gold Delivered to Your Door.”
QUESTION 2: Why should I care?
Every user is going to ask another question once they grasp the big idea.
[They want to know why they should care.]
They are asking questions like the following:
- Is this relevant to me?
- Should I give this my attention right now?
- Is it worthy of my time?
- Does this apply to a want or a need in my life?
If you engage with them on any of those levels, then you will maintain their readership and engage their attention.
How to Answer the Question
There’s a level of intuitive reasoning that needs to happen to answer this question effectively. You must be able to connect your product or service in a very direct way to your audience.
Ask yourself why is my product or service good for the user? What’s the benefit? Then write it down.
1. One way is to list the benefits.
One common way to answer “why should I care” is to provide a bullet point list of benefits. This is very direct method that has a lot of success.
2. Add a sub-headline.
It is important to answer this question as soon as possible. For that reason, many landing page designers answer this question in their sub-headline.
3. State your unique value proposition.
The unique value proposition, or UVP, is part of the recipe of a great landing page. Oli Gardner defines the UVP in this way:
Also known as a unique selling proposition (USP), a UVP is a clear statement that describes the benefit of what you are offering, how you solve needs and what distinguishes you from the competition.
According to his explanation, “Your UVP should speak to your visitor’s needs.”
This is exactly what I’m saying — The question “Why should I care?” is an unvarnished demand for “Tell me why I need it!”
If you can convince the user that they should care, then you’re well on your way to winning the race for their conversion.
GEICO assumes that people know “What is this?” They dispense with the explanation, and drive straight for the “Why should I care?” question.
Their answer is this: “You can depend on GEICO.”
I’m not an insurance expert, but I do know that dependable insurance is a very appealing thing. I buy insurance to secure a sense of dependability and security. If my insurance company promises to provide that, then the question, “Why should I care?” is answered.
They go on to list a few of the benefits of GEICO to further establish their dependability.
Zoosk uses a list of benefits to answer my question “Why should I care?” Their target audience — single young people looking for companionship — want to find the right match, but they also want to meet someone who fits their lifestyle.
The dating website helps to answer the question by identify their target demographics’ big needs, and satisfying them. Using a list:
- Why should I care? Because Zoosk matches people according to a scientific process (“behavioral matchmaking”).
- Why should I care? Because you can do this on your smartphone.
- Why should I care? Because you can chat with the potential love of your life anytime you want, anywhere you are.
TrueCar does a similar thing. They promise convenience (the app), savings ("never overpay"), transparency ("see what others paid"), confidence ("have confidence"), and fairness ("fair price"). All of these “Why should I care” answers are apparent in less than 10 seconds.
QUESTION 3: What’s in it for me?
“What’s in it for me” is different from the above question. The user asks “Why should I care” to establish relevance.
[Once they establish relevance, they are looking for benefits.]
This question is the critical point. You can think of it as the summit of the mountain. Question one is just starting out — getting them on the mountain. Question two, “Why should I care?” gets them through the hard climb.
If you can successfully answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” then you’ve gotten them to the top of the mountain.
It’s all downhill from there.
How to Answer the Question
To answer the question, you need to understand a little bit of the psychology behind it. You will appeal to users if you do one of two things:
- Solve an existing problem or relieve pain.
- Prevent a future problem or prevent pain.
The idea centers on pain. Humans are wired to avoid pain. A successful landing page can address this pain, and provide a solution to it.
I used GEICO as an example above, but I didn’t show you the whole landing page. On the page, they use a popup that seems a lot like a survey. It asks the question: “What was your biggest challenge, frustration, or problem finding the right car insurance online?”
Challenge? Frustration? Problem? That’s pain language. GEICO assumes that their audience will have pain, and wants them to talk about it.
Evernote uses the pain of a busy lifestyle and a crowded mind to help answer this question.
Their entire design is intended to establish mental clarity, ability to get things done, and the successful feeling of accomplishing all of one’s work.
The fitness company Beachbody advertises their PiYo workout by asserting that users can define themselves. They know that their audience is probably turned off by CrossFit’s jumping regimen, and they don’t want to use weights. Thus, the PiYo landing page nails it:
Piyo is also the perfect place to unleash one of the most effective pain solving techniques of all time — the before/after photos.
For a user who is subconsciously wondering, “What’s in it for me,” the answer is right there: look good, feel good, be healthy.
This hair recovery landing page uses the sort feature to directly address a benefit. They are inviting the user to engage in the process by defining his benefit.
QUESTION 4: What do I do now?
When a user lands on a call-to-action page, they are looking for one thing — a solution. Are they ready to click, convert and buy? They are wondering the following:
- What do I do?
- How do I do it?
- Where do I click?
- What do I need to do?
A landing page is an unabashed, straightforward and unvarnished attempt to get the user to convert. And the user wants to be compelled.
[People click on landing pages because they are interested in converting.]
How to Answer the Question
Every landing page must have a call to action. This is the answer to the question.
1. First, make your button big and obvious.
According to Fitt’s Law, the bigger and closer a target object, the faster and easier it is to click on that target. This sine qua non nugget of UX wisdom is a critical part of the landing page recipe.
In simple terms, use a big and obvious CTA button.
2. Then, make your copy compelling and direct.
Every CTA button needs to have copy — words, sentences or some other form of verbiage. The actual copy you use is one of the most important components of the entire landing page.
Button copy will either turn your user away in the eleventh hour, or create a conversion. Make sure you use button copy that is compelling and direct. Don’t use the word “submit.” Don’t be boring.
LinkedIn directs this landing page toward “sophisticated marketers.” But sophisticated marketers know that using the word “submit” on a landing page capture form is a big no-no.
SproutSocial gets a leg up on the competition with this compelling landing page, and an oh-so-obvious CTA button: [Do I want to start a free trial?]
Heck, yes. Is it obvious to me what I should do now? Absolutely.
Groupon uses a single and focused capture form to pull people into their sales funnel. The action is obvious. What do I do? I just hand over my email address, and no one will get hurt.
The site Force Factor wants to help guys get ripped. Their conversion action is “See if you qualify.” It’s clear, obvious, compelling, and they even throw in a free sample.
There are four questions that every user is asking consciously or subconsciously:
- What is this?
- Why should I care?
- What’s in it for me?
- What do I do now?
You’re not just a landing page designer. You’re a psychologist. If you can get beyond the simple question and answer the deep need, then you’ll be able to draw the user in to a conversion-ready experience.